Everyone knows Captcha and reCaptcha, this technique invented by Luis von Ahn, professor of computer science in Pittsburgh and which allows to distinguish, for one, a user of a bot on the Internet and for the other, d ” use human input to avoid spam and allow recognition of a large, digitizable library.

It is therefore not surprising that this famous Luis von Ahn is at the origin of the Duolingo service, a free Internet translation tool whose operation is absolutely innovative: indeed, Duolingo allows its users not only to learn a new language , but also aims to translate the entire web! Both its applications and any other content.

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After a Beta test version, started in November 2011, which currently counts around 300,000 users, Duolingo enters the market. This service currently only offers French, Spanish and German for English speakers and English for Spanish speakers, but other languages ​​will follow.

How it works ?

Duolingo is a language learning platform and, like Wikipedia, and reCaptcha it works on a participatory principle: crowdsourcing. A business model based on a form of exchange: free language courses in return for a web translation.

A theoretical part is based on the designation of various exercises to perform, finding the genre of words, completing sentences… It takes into account different indicators of difficulty, such as the length and complexity of a sentence in relation to the linguistic problems specific to languages ​​involved.

The fun and practical part consists of assigning, as users progress, sentences, then texts to translate for the web. Validation is done by the vote of Internet users and the intelligent Duolingo system confirms the correct translation, which estimates the correctness of this translation by the number of concordant responses.

Duolingo, content translation

Advantages and disadvantages

a) Black dots:

  • A questionable quality since the translations come from amateurs;
  • Doubtful reliability: to translate extremely specialized sites the use of Duolingo can be hazardous, it is true, and the danger very real for a company which will want to see translated pages containing very specific information, likely even to endanger the well-being or the life of the users: composition and pharmaceutical dosage for example… But this point brings back to the question of knowing who is legally responsible for slippages of information on the web. More fundamentally, even if the translations proposed are supposedly of almost professional quality, doubt can only hover;
  • A prejudice for the companies of professional translators: indeed, one can expect a fall in recourse to the professionals of the translation and a strong reaction on their part, even if for the moment all the languages ​​are not concerned, it’s still a big part of the web. Some of them are already asking questions;
  • Another question also arises: where is the current financial interest for Duolingo? Indeed, the courses are free, the translations are free! This phenomenon of absolute gratuity is valid for the moment in trial version: the service could become chargeable, as it is specified on the site, in certain cases. If the request for translation is very urgent and if, precisely, the service requires high quality and absolute reliability. Financial compensation could emerge for more complex and more specialized translations. In any case, doubt can hover over future developments in this direction. To see after the launch of the project.

b) The advantages:

  • Concerning the previously mentioned doubt about reliability, a half answer is already given (paid translation if need for high quality), to which is added that of its designer. Crowdsourcing translation is a starting point for further research and should not be taken as absolute truth. Another point to emphasize: a legal specialist wishing to learn German will of course turn to the acquisition of this area of ​​competence, which therefore also means that the translations he will generate will be perfectly admissible;
  • It leads to significant savings, especially in the event of a large volume to be translated, since it makes it unnecessary to resort to a professional service;
  • It is fast and efficient since the entire human community is focused on a single project: translating the web (barely 80 hours would be required to translate the entire English pages of Wikipedia by 1 million users);
  • It is absolutely dynamic, since it is constantly updated by users working on the same project at the same time. No problem with updates;
  • Better quality in any case than that offered by Google Translate, of which we have all tested the hazardous translations.

In conclusion: a service to test right away today 1 p.m., for all those who would like to internationalize their communication, sites, applications … Definitely very addictive because of its fun side … I tested!

To register: https://www.duolingo.com